‘The me I see, is the me I will be.’ Bruny Surin – Olympic athletes interviewed Episode 108
Bruny Surin, Olympic Champion, double World Champion, and double Indoor World Champion outlines how he accidentally got into track and field, why perseverance always pays off, how he turned one of his worst moments into his best moments within a few days, and how they ultimately clinched the Olympic title against all odds.
Furthermore, we discuss
- The memorable Bruny moment
- How he got into Track and Field
- His darkest moment
- His best moment
- His advice to a younger Bruny Surin
- His success habits
- His morning routine
- How to prepare for important moments
- How he turned his worst moment into his best moment in a few days
- How to overcome setbacks
- His role model
- The best advice he has received
- His reflection on competing at the same time as the best Canadian sprinter of all times
- A typical training day in the life of an Olympic sprinter
- His team building and coaching services, where he shares his lessons learned from being an athlete
- His interview nomination
- Where can you find Bruny Surin
Christian: Today I’m joined by Bruny Surin. Bruny is a quadruple Olympian, Olympic Champion, a two-time World Champion, and a two-time Indoor World Champion in Track and Field. Welcome, Bruny.
Bruny: Thank you very much for having me.
The memorable Bruny moment
Christian: Bruny, you have been mentioned two times already here, not by your name, but for something you have done. In that the 4×100 meter relay Olympic final in 1996, you handed the stick over to Donovan Bailey, and whilst he still had 90 meters to go, but you put your hands up and celebrated the win.
That was such and such an iconic moment for me. I still remember it today. Tell us what went through your head. You were so confident.
Bruny: I remember exactly that image until today and that’s going to stay forever because we were in lane 6 and our biggest competition, the US team, was in lane 4. I was running the curve, so I didn’t see anybody in front of me. In my mind, I just said that we’re going to win.
But as soon as I finished the turn, I was going to give it to Donovan. I just did a quick look over my left shoulder. I didn’t see anybody and as soon as I finished giving it to Donovan, I knew that it was impossible for anybody to catch Donovan.
That’s why I raised my arm, as I knew that we won that, but as a team, we knew that we had the potential. We did everything that we had to do to obtain that gold medal.
One of the things that we had was our team spirit. We were in sync. We believed in each other and we worked hard. Before we went to the final, all of us knew that we were going there to win a gold medal and we have confidence and we put our effort together and that’s a great result.
Surround yourself with great people to achieve a great thing.
And that’s the same mentality and the same tools that I’m building on now, until today as a team, to surround yourself with great people to achieve a great thing. That was a big lesson for me. That’s why I said, that’s going to stay with me until I die.
Christian: Yes. I still see it very vividly that moment that you raise the hands up. It was so cool.
Check out the 4x100m Men’s Relay at the 1996 Olympic Games (at 30 seconds into the video you see Bruny celebrating)
How he got into Track and Field
Christian: How did you get into track and field in the first place?
Bruny: Actually my first love of the sport, when I was a kid back in 1980, I was a footballer, soccer as we said, and when I moved to Canada, I still played soccer. I had a love for the sport.
After that, it was basketball. I remember until I was maybe 12 or 13 years old, I was on the basketball team at the high school. Every year-end of school, we had a competition in track and field. So my first year, I won the triple jump and the long jump, but I wasn’t the fastest.
There was a coach there, who was on the national team. So he came to talk to me. He told me that he realized that I have talent and he wanted to coach me because I could be a good athlete. He said that possibly later I could go to the Olympics.
To me, it was nothing. I just took his business card with the phone number and everything. I never called. And even one year after that, the same thing happened. One day again, he told me that he remembered me from the previous year.
There was a coach from the national team, who told me that I have talent and he wanted to coach me, and that possibly I could go to the Olympics. I just took his business card with the phone number, but I never called.
He gave me his number again and I never called because my love for the sport was basketball. It took me five years. Every year he came and it was only when I was watching the 100-meter final at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
I was thrilled, who’s going to be the fastest man in the world. To me, I was fascinated by that. I was just there at 17 years old and I see Carl Lewis winning. I was amazed and thought that I wanted to do something that great.
I don’t want to say he is a show-off, but Carl Lewis, as we all knew, in the track and field community, he liked to change his hair and did all these cool things. So, every time he changed his hair, I changed my hair. I put his name on my books and everything. I wanted to be like him.
That’s why after that, the coach who was trying to recruit me five years earlier, I started training with him. I told him that I wanted to be like Carl. And that’s how I get to start track and field.
Christian: Really cool story.
His darkest moment
Christian: You are such an accomplished athlete with so many accolades, but there must have been dark moments. What was your darkest moment?
Bruny: There were so many. All my life, from 14 or 15 years old I had to be resilient because I wasn’t born in a rich family. We had the basic things, and my parents worked very hard, but I had the big obstacle from the beginning.
When I saw Carl Lewis at 17 years old, I decided that I wanted to do track and field. I wanted to do long jump and I wanted to run. I wanted to be like him. I told my friends, my family, and everybody that one day I wanted to go to the Olympics. I wanted to do like Carl Lewis and I wanted to run faster than Carl Lewis.
Everybody was saying that I was crazy. They all said that they understood my dream, but I had no money. They asked how I was going to buy the sophisticated sports equipment.
They also wanted to know how I was going to go to training camp. They inquired about how I was going to go to Europe and on the international circuit. I then realized that it was true. I had none of that.
I told my friends and my family, that one day I wanted to go to the Olympics, and I wanted to run faster than Carl Lewis. Everybody was saying that I was crazy. They asked how I was going to buy the sophisticated sports equipment because I had no money.
I went to knock on the doors of different persons and corporations. I introduced myself and told them that I was the kid who wanted to go to the Olympics. I asked if they could help. And I received a lot of rejection.
I just kept in my mind that one day, I was going to find somebody to help me a little bit and I was not going to buy the expensive clothing, but one day I would do that. That’s exactly what I did. I remember I went to a restaurant and I was leaving because I thought that he wasn’t going to give me any support.
I was going out of the door and the owner called me back and he wrote me a check of 500 dollars. It’s with that money, I went to buy my first pair of spikes and I started competing. But it wasn’t easy.
That’s why a lot of time when I talk to kids, like this new generation, it can be in sport and whatever it is, it can be any other aspect in life, I tell them that when they have a dream, they have to go find a solution. They should not say that they don’t have money or that it was a tough neighborhood.
- Also check out the interview ‘It’s only as big as you make it.’ With Olympic champion and world-record holder Kevin Young, who outlines how he came through a very tough neighborhood to the university and the international sports stage.
I tell them that they need to find a way to, and that’s what I did. It wasn’t easy. Especially when I told the kids that I had to achieve my ultimate goal. I asked them if they knew how many years it took me when you’re talking about dark moments?
At some point, I was sleeping on the train. I remember moments when I was trying to get in a competition. A lot of people were laughing at me. A lot of people were saying that I was crazy.
Sometimes meet promoters were yelling at me because sometimes they give me a chance, but I didn’t perform. It was crazy. It was tough. Then sometimes you have reporters, when you start competing and you don’t make great results, they say that I’m bad or that I’m not a good athlete. When you read that, it is tough.
When you persevere and you do all the effort, it’s going to pay off. It’s going to pay off for sure.
It took me 15 years, from that moment as a 17-year-old to say that I want to run faster than my idol, until 15 years later, I achieved it. And today, when I look at that, to me, it’s like great perseverance. When you persevere in one thing and you do all the effort, it’s going to pay off. It’s going to pay off for sure.
Christian: Really cool.
His best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Bruny: I also had some good moments. There were dark moments and there were some very good moments. I remember the first time I won my world title in the 60 meters in 1993. I remember I saw the Canadian flag raising and heard the national anthem. They showed my race in slow motion.
I remember thinking that I was getting there. I’m one of the athletes who didn’t have a title at that time. I was one of the best athletes. After a couple of years, I had no title. So that was my first title.
I was one of the best athletes, but I had no title.
In my mind, I said that I’m going to work even harder because I wanted more. I needed to find ways to be better. I needed to invest in myself, in my training, and in my career to be better.
And in Atlanta, at the Olympic Games, there nobody who saw that we could win the gold medal. Everybody said that the US team was going to win for sure. People thought that they’re going to win easily. All those guys run 9.8 to 9.9 in the 100 meters.
Who could challenge them? Us? We said we could do it. We said that we’re going to show them. We did and standing on that podium, we were number one. We saw the crowd and we saw just a little bit of Canadian flag because the US flag was all over the place.
In my mind, I reflected on that crazy dream as a 17-year-old. I remember when I started, and everybody was saying that I should not do that. They said that I was going to waste my time. I was told that I have no talent nor any money.
Standing on that podium, I remembered when I started, and everybody told me that I was going to waste my time. I was told that I have no talent nor any money.
Sometimes people ask me how did I felt when I was on the first podium at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. At one point, I thought that I was going to just faint because there was so much emotion. I remember when my coach was saying that when you believe in something “the me I see is the me I’ll be.”
The first time he said it, I was wondering what he talking about. I wondered if he was crazy or something. However, he told me to believe in that; “The me I see is the me I’ll be.”
I started to visualize myself. I saw myself going to the Olympics. I saw that I was going to be one of the fastest men in the world and I believed it. When I was walking and going to training, I told myself that I was training for this.
Yes, of course, people were laughing. That’s why I said to people, today, whatever you do, don’t be scared first of saying out loud what you want to do. If you have confidence in yourself, and you are ready to do the work, perseverance, you can say whatever you want.
People are going to laugh. Of course. So what? So that should give you more motivation, not only to prove to people but for yourself. Say that you’re going to do it for yourself and you will see.
I remember my coach was saying that when you believe in something and that “The me I see, is the me I’ll be.”
That’s exactly what I teach today to the kids. That’s what I teach when I go to companies and everything. Every week I have a conference and everything. That’s what I said to people. Believe in yourself. It makes a great difference, for sure.
Christian: There’s also this saying, I forgot who quoted it, and I am going to butcher it a bit. Basically, it said every great idea or every innovation started with ridicule. It starts people laugh about it, but then they see, that there’s something to it and then they adopt it and say that it was a good idea.
- Also check out the interview ‘Better people make better athletes.’ With Olympic coach Victor Anfiloff, who said that a lot of outstanding performances in history started with something that people laughed at.
Bruny: Exactly. And that’s in everything. Sometimes, especially now, when I talk to a younger audience, I tell them that a lot of time, I’m going to give them an example as in sport, because I lived and experience that. I tell them that I like to talk to people. I like to talk to people to ask what direction they want to go in life, whatever the field is music or business.
I remember I had some younger kids that I knew were in music, but they had motivation. I like what I was seeing. I wonder what I can do to help a little bit to promote.
I produce a show, like a jazz show and they made me play piano because I play the piano, but I’m an amateur. I organized that and I had a great night and everything. This guy is very good, and I saw the passion in him.
So years come, I didn’t see him. He was doing his thing and I was doing my thing. There was a show in Montreal with Madonna. Who doesn’t know Madonna? Everybody knows Madonna.
I was not far from the stage and the stage was big and it was turning. By the angle, I saw the guy that was playing the keyboard. He reminded me of the kid a couple of years before that I knew when we produced the show, but the stage kept turning.
The difference in if you’re going to succeed, or if you’re going to fail, is up to you.
I was amazed because it was him. Until today, he’s the keyboardist of Madonna. For him, it was like there’s no limit. He wanted to do that. He wanted to be on top. That’s what he was doing, living his dream.
We all are capable of doing that. We all have talent in some ways. The difference in if you’re going to succeed or if you’re going to fail is if you believe that it’s up to you. That is what I believed. I believe that one hundred percent.
His advice to a younger Bruny Surin
Christian: If you could travel back in time, let’s say back to the 1984 Olympics and you meet a younger Bruny, what advice would you give yourself?
Bruny: It would be not worrying about what people think or what people are going to say about you. In the beginning, that was something that I was raised to do.
I was raised by the decision or whatever you’re going to do, the way you dress or whatever, to think about how people are going to perceive you. You have to always like what people think about you. When I had bad critics, that was killing me.
I had friends in sport and track and field. However, to me, it was like there was a time when I was down low and they were high. When I started coming up, I lost friends. It hurt for a long time.
I wondered why it had to be like that. I wondered why people talk bad about people and why it came and got me. However, at some point, I learned to say that I don’t care what people said.
Don’t worry what other people think or say. At some point, I learned to say that I don’t care what people said.
I knew that there were things that I like and things I wanted to do. I knew how I was going to dress and that was what I was going to wear. Whoever did not like it, it was their problem, not mine.
I said to you earlier, I like to talk about people and their mindset. I want to know about their dreams and their goals. Sometimes in conferences, I ask people to come to the front and share with the audience.
Sometimes there are 100 to 500 people who come here and when I ask about their dreams, a lot of time, people don’t come. Yet, after I finished my conference, I go in small group or one-on-one and it’s easy. Many are ready to tell me about their dreams at that time.
At first, I didn’t understand and then I started asking why they don’t tell me the same thing they’re just telling me now in front of people. They tell me that they’re scared. They don’t want people to laugh at them.
For that reason, they will just stay in their corner and do their own thing. I tell them to forget it. They are to just go there. That’s what I’m saying. It’s not their problem.
Even today where I have business coaches, the first thing that they’re saying is not to make your decision based on what people are going to think or what people are going to say. It’s not your problem. So that’s what I want to also to teach. That’s my thing. I like to do that.
His success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful athlete and person?
Bruny: I’m a positive guy.
Christian: I can see that.
I’m a positive guy.
Bruny: I remember the place I was living. I just move now to downtown Montreal. At the place I was living in the complex, I remember one gentleman, came to see me and he was laughing. He told me that it was nice to see me because I was always smiling. I told him that life was good.
Even sometimes when you have bad moments, especially now with the COVID. It’s bad. It’s very bad. I remember when it started, a lot of people, including myself were saying that maybe in one to two months, everything will be good. Now it has gotten worse.
Now you see, I don’t want to judge people, but we see more depression. One of the people that I know, it wasn’t a friend, but I knew that person who was in business. Unfortunately, he didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and he made the unfortunate act.
But now we have two ways of looking at the situation. We can talk about resilience. What is resilience? Well, you accept the situation. You ask yourself what you can do because it’s there. You ask what you can do now to prepare yourself.
What is resilience? You accept the situation. You ask yourself what you can do, and you ask what you can do now to prepare yourself.
Find out what action you can make to even be better after. Prepare yourself to say that you’re going to go through it even though it’s tough. There’s wind, it is what it is. I don’t care. I’m going to work even harder after that. I’m going to be better.
Today, we are living in a world, it’s more digital. There is a digital marketing and everything is going digital. I have a clothing line. Now, all the stores are closed. That means nobody’s buying your product so there is less income.
I have about 20 to 30 conferences across the world. Every one of them had to stop, so again, there is less income. I could constantly say that it is bad or I could roll up sleeves and think how I can be better.
I took a class about digital marketing at the university. I took another class about negotiation. Actually, now I’m taking a university class about retail on what the habits of the consumer will be, even after the COVID. Are they still going to go continue online to be better prepared after?
My life is very good. But I could say the opposite. I could say that it’s bad and have depression or whatever it is, but you see me now with a big smile. It’s great.
I remember in one conference they told me that I talk very strongly and positively. But they were saying that not everybody can be like me and do the same thing. It’s up to you. But I said that, yes, everybody can be like that.
There’s not one day that I don’t wake up and say that today’s going to be a great day. No matter what, it’s going to be a great day. Can everybody do that? Yes, of course, you can. It’s up to you. You live your life, right?
His morning routine
Christian: Talking about waking up, do you have a morning routine?
Bruny: Normally, I wake up at 6 or 6:30 am. Sometimes I have a phase where I wake up earlier, but in general, it’s about that time and I quietly take my coffee.
I focus, I visualize, and say to myself that it’s going to be great. It’s going to be good. I want to be better. I start to make my follow-up by going to my social media and then start the day.
I focus, I visualize, and say to myself that it’s going to be great. It’s going to be good. I want to be better.
In the morning, it’s similar, but after that, it’s all different. I used to travel a lot. Now, of course, it’s home. But normally 6:00/6:30, I go to my office, have my coffee, meditate a little bit and start the day positive all the time.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare yourself for important moments?
Bruny: Whatever it’s going to be, if I have to meet somebody, maybe for a business opportunity, business deal, or presentation, I always anticipate. Sometimes it’s like the movie where I repeat myself.
Let’s say I’m going to do a presentation for you. I have something to sell you like my product. You may be the client I’m going to meet; this is the argument I’m going to tell him. I have my ABCD or my pitch that I’m going to practice.
I’m going to also anticipate that if I am asked a particular question, how I would answer it. Your body language is very important. I always say that to people.
If I come to you, first of all, I look at you in the eyes. There’s contact there. I’m not looking down because that’s not confidence. The way I’m standing or sitting means that I am confident in everything I’m going to do.
If you know about body language, you can read me. If you come to me and try to sell me something or I’m going to see if you’re confident. I look at what you’re telling me and assess if you believe what you’re saying.
I want to know if you know your product and if you’re just making it up. I can see that and it’s very, very important.
Practice, practice, practice and visualize, visualize, visualize.
But yes, in every important meeting or whatever I’m going to do, I’m ready. Everything is practice, practice, practice. It’s like in track and field. That’s what sometimes people want to know if there is a difference between when I was an athlete and today in my business and the other things that I am involved in.
I tell them that it’s the same thing. When I’m going to a track meet during the 100 meters final or another event, in practice, I’ve been doing that so many times. So why in business, I would not do the same? Why in business, I wouldn’t have the same habit?
It’s the same thing. Practice, practice, practice and visualize, visualize, visualize. Think that you’re going to succeed and boom, that’s it. It’s the same thing, but sometimes people don’t do that practice. They don’t do it and they come to the situation, they’re not prepared. It doesn’t work.
How he turned his worst moment into his best moment in a few days
Christian: Preparing for important moments, in this Olympic final the 4×100 meter relay, a few days before you had one of your worst moments. You wanted to qualify for the individual 100-meter final and then you bumped out in the semifinal. How did you turn it around within a few days? So from bad moment to be on fire in that final, what did you?
Bruny: Yes, that was one of my worst moments and what I learned from it, I apply today. It’s not theory, it’s reality. I have said it to friends and to everybody, whatever bad moment you have, whenever you need someone to talk to, I’m here. It is not a problem.
I’m listening to you. I give you advice, we share the problem, but don’t come to me next week, one month or two months after with the same problem and the same attitude. You don’t find a solution, you just talk about the problem all the time.
We had this once. There are two things. I’m saying that all the time. Whatever situation you are in, there is a reason. Find out why you are in that situation. Secondly, ask what you are going to do to be out of that situation and to fix the problem. Find your solution as soon as possible.
Whatever situation you are in, there is a reason. Find out why you are in that situation, and find your solution as soon as possible.
To answer your question, at the 1996 Olympics, I also wanted to win the 100 meters. I wanted to enter the Olympic final in the 100 meters and the 4×100. I come to the semifinal and the top 4 progress to the final.
I finished the race. I looked at my name and I see my name for 5th place. I was number five. So the reality was for the 100 meters Olympic final, I was finished. It was over.
I saw stars. I saw black, I was crying and I was frustrated. I asked myself why so many times. I went back to the house. I put the video on and looked at the race over and over again. I continued to ask myself why. In the middle of the night, I asked myself why I was in this.
I understand now. In my year of preparation, why I didn’t have any passion when I was going to training. At least three or four times, I’m driving to go to training, there was no fire inside. Three or four times, I made a U-turn and went back home.
I didn’t go to practice, but I was so focused. I didn’t understand how I was reacting. So right there, I understood it. I wanted to win the gold medal 100 meters for my family, for my country, for my friends, for my sponsor, but I forgot something. I forgot me.
I was supposed to be number one, wasn’t even there. So that’s why all this reaction. That’s why I didn’t like it. That’s why three or four times I turned around and didn’t go to practice. Now, what are you going to do about it?
I had to change my mindset. My mindset was off. Now, I put it back on. Now, I understand. Now I want to run for myself. I want to have fun. I’m number one now. I want to have fun.
There was a big pool at the house, and a couple of hours after, I was at the pool enjoying life. I started thinking that life was good. Everybody came to see me and were asking if I was okay.
They didn’t understand. They asked how I could have just lived this nightmare and now talking about life being good. I asked them what they wanted me to do. I told you the resilience. I was in that situation.
I couldn’t ask them to start the Olympic final again. No, that was impossible. It was done. So, I had to look forward and I had to figure out how I was going to be better. A couple of days after that, I was on the podium.
How can you be better at the worst moment? That’s what I got out of that situation. I took action, that’s it. Can we all do that? Yes, we can.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: Yes. That leads perfectly into the next question or you partly answered it. How do you overcome setbacks?
Bruny: Setbacks, it’s the same thing. Let’s take an example, when I’m training, I want to perform. One of the setbacks that can happen is the worst usual injury of a sprinter. It is the hamstring injury.
Now, you take one step back. You have to do your physio and all your treatment. You do your water training for the cardio, and you’re going to be better after that. That’s it.
Can you imagine at one point in my sports career, somebody close to me was asking if I really like what I’m doing because sometimes I don’t perform and I’m still happy? I asked them if they know what I do when I don’t perform well.
I finish the race and I look at the time. I am not happy, so I ask what I did wrong. I then know what I need to do in training. A couple of days in training, that is what I’m going to do. Repair that, no problem. Laughing, going to my competition, have dinner together. No problem.
I knew already what I didn’t do. Why waste time on the bad thing? Sometimes I feel so bad when I see people still talking about the little problems and have depressions. Again, I don’t want to judge people.
- Also check out the interview ‘Don’t waste a day on things that are unimportant.’ With 2-time Stanley Cup champion Craig Simpson, who outlines to not waste any energy on bad things.
Sometimes athletes are disappointed and depressed about wanting to win the gold, but they won the silver. This is years after that and depression because of that. Are you crazy? To me, it doesn’t make sense.
Every time I have a setback, I ask myself why I had the setback. I ask what I did wrong and what I did right. I then figure out how we are going to fix the situation. I find a solution and boom, that’s it. The next day, we move to the next. That’s it. We never waste time.
His role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Bruny: I have many role models. In sport, I told you about Carl Lewis. I had somebody else who wasn’t in sport at all. Martin Luther King, the activist, he believed in something. To me, he was my role model. A lot of things that I’m doing now are I can say that they were partly because of that.
Martin Luther King was my role model.
In business, I have so many role models. A couple of years ago, I was at the business convention and I had a chance to talk to one of the great businessmen in the States, Hugh Hilton, in commercial real estate. I listened to his conference and I took a ton of notes.
I had a chance to talk to him for about 15 minutes with one of my business friends. I asked him questions. At that time, I was a little bit uncomfortable about real estate.
Many years before I wanted to try real estate. I liked it. But I was also hearing what people were saying. They said that it was not good and that the market was too expensive. When I talked to Hugh, he told me that he was not smarter than me.
He said that he would take a project and you make your numbers. He said that if it made sense to me, I should jump because of the way I was talking, if I was waiting for the right moment, I would never do it.
He said that if it made sense to me, I should jump. Because if I was waiting for the right moment, I would never do it.
Do you know what I did after that? I put in my agenda that year that whatever the market and whatever happened that year, I was putting one step in real estate. It was a fast implementation. Today I’m in different projects in real estate.
Where I’m sitting now, I’m in downtown Montreal. I remember a couple of years before, I looked at downtown and said that I would like to have an apartment there, but I thought that it was impossible. It was too expensive.
Now, I’m here. I’m not saying that to brag or whatever, but it’s all here. Build your confidence in sport and business and whatever it is.
Christian: That’s what you said before. The me, I see is the me I’ll be, right?
Bruny: Exactly. In every and any field, it’s that. The me I see is the me I’ll be. Period.
Christian: Well, that answers the next question.
The best advice he has received
Christian: What is the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Bruny: I would say that the best advice I received in my life was from my first coach, my mom. I remember because I moved from Haiti to Canada. I was seven years old. My mom stayed in Canada after one year and my dad came back to Haiti to bring myself and my two sisters.
That’s one year I didn’t see my mom. I was seven years old, I’m here in Quebec and it was in the cold winter times. I asked her what this was about and why I was brought to the cold weather.
She told me that there I would have all the opportunity. She said I could be whatever I want to be. It was up to me. She told me to never forget this piece of advice. In life, there is no shortcut. So whatever I’m going to do, don’t cheat.
My mom told me to never forget this piece of advice. In life, there is no shortcut. So whatever you’re going to do, don’t cheat.
I wasn’t even doing sport. I wasn’t even thinking that I was going to be at the Olympics. I was seven years old. So the only thing I remember was that all the opportunities were there and I had to seize them. I had to work hard and there was no shortcut. I was not going to cheat.
I grew up with that mindset, saying that, “yes, you can” to the kids that were telling me that they don’t and that they can’t. I kept telling them to try again. I say that to my daughters. I have one who played tennis and she graduated from Penn State in the States.
My other daughter graduated from Yukon in Track and Field. Even in track and field, she sometimes complained that it was too difficult and that she was tired. I encouraged her and told her to keep going. What was important also was that it was not my dream, it was her dream.
My little one, the last one is in Europe now. She’s in France. The last time I saw her was when she left here in August. That is August to now, so it’s been seven months that I haven’t seen her.
She tells me how tough it is. For the Christmas and New Year holidays, she couldn’t come because the frontier was closed. If she came back to Canada, she couldn’t go back to Europe as the borders were closed.
But now her dream is to participate in the Olympic Games, but what does she need to do? She has to work. That’s what I transmit to my daughters. Don’t tell me that it is impossible. I don’t know the definition of what impossible is.
I don’t know the definition of what impossible is.
It’s not impossible. I don’t know what is impossible. Sometimes people say that I should be realistic. What is being realistic? It’s crazy. You know something. Sometimes I say that as a story.
I remember perfectly, in 1996, the year we won the gold medal. I was walking and I saw a store. I saw a big magazine. I think it was Sport Illustrated. The cover was human sport – human limits.
I saw the title and I started laughing. I said to myself, I bet you, whatever they’re going to say here, I don’t believe. I don’t believe it so I bought it. I took it. So going back to the hotel, I started reading. It was talking about soccer, basketball like the vertical jump and everything and sprint.
Human beings won’t run 9.6 seconds in the 100 meters until 2050. I remember that very well and I started laughing. I wondered why this could not happen. I retired from my career in 2002. The world record was Maurice Greene’s 9.79 seconds.
I said it won’t take long. Somebody’s going to run 9.6. Everybody said that I was crazy. I told them not to worry about it. In 2003, one year after I retired, I was working for our TV. So that year we start to hear the name.
They spoke of a young kid in Jamaica whose name was Usain Bolt. They said he was doing well and they said I was to make sure that I did an interview with him. I saw this kid running the 200 meters, but he was not strong enough.
He was still running like this because he was still growing up. He finished the race and he won the 200 meters and I interviewed him.
Remember earlier in the interview, I said that body language is very important. I can read. I saw the way he was running and I told everyone loudly after the interview that they were to give this kid five years.
In time, he would grow, train and improve. In five years, he would be the one. He would run 9.6. They asked why I was saying that on TV. They called me crazy and said I was saying crazy things on TV.
I told them that I did not care because I was telling them what I saw. Five years later, in 2008, what happened? You remember I told you also when you believe you can do something and when you have confidence, don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared about saying it loudly.
Before the Olympics, did you know that Usain Bolt said that he was going to run 9.6 seconds? Some people say that he was arrogant. Some people say that it was impossible.
He delivered by going to that final in 9.6. Whereas a lot of people were saying that it would not happen before 2050. They said that it was impossible. What was impossible?
Christian: Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
- Also check out the interview ‘It’s impossible until it’s done.’ With Olympic sliver-medalist Jelle van Gorkom.
Bruny: Exactly. That’s because sometimes people put barriers in front of them. I tell them not to do that. I remember when I was growing up in the sport and I wanted to be the best.
I remember one coach came to me and told me that maybe I could win. He said I could beat an athlete because he was not in his top shape then. He had come from injury. I asked the coach why he thought that it would be my satisfaction to win or to beat an athlete because he just came back from injury and he’s not in shape?
What’s the satisfaction? I’m not satisfied. I want to beat him when he’s at his top. Do you see that kind of mindset? I don’t settle for that. I don’t want to beat you when you’re not in shape.
I want to beat you when you’re in top shape. That’s why I want to make people the mindset here to understand. You cannot be satisfied with that. That’s not me.
His reflection on competing at the same time as the best Canadian sprinter of all times
Christian: Talking about rivalries, basically the two best Canadian sprinters ever [Donovan Bailey and Bruny Surin] lived at the same time, and competed at the same time.
How do reflect on that? Do you sometimes think that maybe if I would have lived a little bit early or later, I would have been number one, but because I competed at the same time as Donovan Bailey, I was only number two?
Bruny: No, I always want to compete with the best. I always want to be competing at the best. It’s about being the best that you can be. Sometimes I was saying that when the next generation after Usain Bolt came, I remember when athletes told me that it was not fair because they cannot beat him.
I always want to compete with the best. It’s about being the best that you can be.
I told them that if I had a choice, I would give anything to beat him in his era because if it’s there, I want to go there. They’re telling me it’s not fair. It is fair because if he’s there, you need to try to go out there.
That’s the way I’m thinking. Don’t settle for performance that is not so good, when you’re the best. Are you happy with that? Or if you’re happy with that, that is your problem. But to me, it doesn’t make sense.
Christian: You make each other better ultimately.
Bruny: Yes, exactly. Everybody gets together at some point at the end of my career, we had the same coach in Austin, where I went to Austin in Texas and train together with Donovan. So every day we both push each other and that day, the best win. Sometimes I win. Sometimes you win. That’s the game. I’m happy with that.
A typical training day in the life of an Olympic sprinter
Christian: Back in the days, how did the typical training day look like?
Bruny: Throughout my career, I had different coaches. The way that they’re thinking was not always the same. Sometimes it was two trainings per day, where we had one in the morning, then we took a break and in the afternoon, we had another training.
That was the way of training. Towards the end of my career, it was one training, but it was long. I remember even before going to Texas, I was talking to one of the athletes because I want to know, how do they train and everything.
He told me that for example, as weight training, they do five times a week and I started laughing. He asked me why I was laughing because it was true. I’ve never done that before.
That’s what made the big difference. Once I start competing, let’s say outdoor in April, I barely did weight training. But when I was in Texas, we will keep doing the weights and everything.
I asked if he was sure it was going to work. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to be slow. It was the opposite. I learned more and more because I always tried to learn, to teach, to talk to the coach, to have a new approach and that helped me.
But at the end was that I would say four hours and a half, five hours per day at training. We always finished in the weight room. I remember very well the Saturday was a tough day, because when we go to training, they say we have blocks training. It was all the guys together, me, Donovan, Glenroy, and it was fun.
We challenged each other. The coach was happy, but on Saturday, because you know it’s going to be the speed endurance and you’re going to suffer, everybody come to practice and was just silent.
The coach would always notice that we are quiet. You know it’s going to be tough, so you try to prepare yourself to stop it. It’s tough, but it was a good environment.
Those moments sometimes, I think about it. It was fun. It was fun to see all there together, and, of course, everybody wants to be number one. It’s a challenge, but at the same time, we’re friends, the camaraderie and everything. It was a good moment.
His team-building and coaching services, where he shares his lessons learned from being an athlete
Christian: Nowadays, you’re sharing your lessons learned as an athlete through team building and coaching services. Tell us about that.
Bruny: Yes, I even started when I was still running, I said to myself that I want to help people with what I have learned. I was almost 18 years in athletics and all these tools that I know, I experienced, I just didn’t want to say that I knew all these things.
I wanted to know what I could do with my skills. How could I help, let’s say, the youngster? How I can help businessmen? How I can help everybody?
I want to help people with what I have learned. How can I help everybody?
I started doing conferences and everything and at the beginning, it was in schools. And after that, some businesses called me and then it has grown. From the business point of view, I wanted to teach them also about the team, because, in an enterprise, you have to have this culture of working together.
Take the relay as an example and I show them the relay also. We practice how to make the exchange, how to have good communication, and in the team, who’s going to lead off?
Who’s going to be second. Who’s going to be third? Who’s going to be fourth? Why did you make this person the first and everything?
We talk after about their strategy. How did you communicate with your team and everything? And I have great feedback from that. I’ve been doing that for years, and now I can say I do that every week.
Every week, I do one, two, or three conferences. Of course, now, because of Covid, it’s all webinars through the computer, but before that, I was traveling across Canada and I have had opportunities to speak in Europe.
I love doing that, especially, I would say my big rewards and sometimes I receive email from people; from kids, and from businessmen. They tell me how they use the message and how it has changed their life sometimes.
To me, it was great. After my career, I started a clothing line because I love fashion and business is going very well. I told you earlier, I’m also in real estate.
My mindset is the person also that I have as a role model in business, I want to be like them. I said to myself, that if they are there, and for now, I’m still here, I want to grow, and I surrounded myself also with great business people here and everything and things are going well.
His interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Bruny: You told me that you did Donovan, but we can have Ato [Boldon], I nominate Ato and I actually see that Ato is doing that a lot and he likes that too. That’s his job actually. So I’m sure he will be very happy to do that.
Christian: Really cool.
Where can you find Bruny Surin
Christian: Where can people find you?
Bruny: My website is www.surin.ca – my family name, and .ca for Canada. I’m on all social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever, you can find me very easily.
Bruny Surin’s social channels
Christian: What’s the name of your clothing line?
Bruny: It’s my family name also; it’s Surin.
Christian: Bruny, thanks a lot for your time.
Bruny: Thank you very much and I want to congratulate you. You were well prepared. I had fun doing that with you, Christian.
Christian: It was absolutely my pleasure. Thanks a lot.
Bruny: Thank you very much.